Golden shovels in hand, Clark County homebuilders on Wednesday broke ground ceremoniously on the 2014 NW Natural Parade of Homes, a showcase of new houses to be held in July at the Erickson Farms subdivision in Felida, on Vancouver's west side.
The former Lakeshore Avenue farmstead was selected for this year's event partly for its appeal to affluent homebuyers, according to members of the Building Industry Association of Clark County, which sponsors the annual display of homes. Buyers are drawn to the neighborhood for its proximity to Interstate 5 as well as walking trails, views of Vancouver Lake and top-notch schools, said Mark Jeffries, part of the team that developed the 52-acre subdivision.
Set to take place July 11-27, this year's parade will feature eight custom homes — the largest selection in three years — at sales prices ranging from $700,000 to more than $1 million, said Avaly Scarpelli, executive director of the association.
"Each home will be fully furnished and landscaped," Scarpelli told a crowd of about 50 people attending Wednesday's groundbreaking. "Each home will be part of an event not to be missed."
The event will showcase the work of seven Parade of Homes builders including JB Homes, Pahlisch Homes Inc., Cascade West Development, Vilhauer Homes, Glavin Homes, Stone Bridge Homes NW and Pacific Lifestyle Homes.
Two remaining lots in the 10-lot parade site could sport additional homes as part of the event, presented by Home Street Bank.
"If they can get them built in time for the event," said Nathan Cano, of Cano Real Estate, a broker who represents most of the builders at Erickson Farms. He said Clark County's improving housing market -- home sales rebounded dramatically in 2013 -- has made it much easier for most builders to obtain financing to build homes "on spec," meaning without a pre-approved buyer.
"Now, the banks are lending and that mostly comes from confidence in the market," Cano said.
The Erickson Farms subdivision is being built in three phases and includes homes priced from $375,000 to $1 million. The first two phases contain 116 building lots. The project's third phase is planned to include 46 luxury townhomes in a gated community. Plans are also in the works to include 3 acres of commercial development space for boutique-style shops and cafes.
The site may even include a shop offering fresh pro
duce reminiscent of the farm store operated by the family-run Erickson Farms business, headed by Helen and Vinton Erickson. Vinton Erickson died in September at the age of 84. A community activist and longtime Clark County resident, Vinton Erickson was involved in planning the subdivision until the housing market took a significant turn for the worse in late 2007, said Pat Jeffries, who also was part of the planning process.
"This was designed and ready to go before the market crashed," he said.
Scarpelli said hundreds of subcontractors and suppliers also will be involved in the July showcase, which will give potential homebuyers, do-it-yourselfers and dreamers a chance to check out the latest in home designs and products.
And Clark County is one of the best places to display the trends in the Portland metropolitan area, said Tom Hendrie, director of customer acquisition for NW Natural Gas, title sponsor of the Parade of Homes.
"Clark County is our fastest-growing customer base," Hendrie said. "The new construction market is the most important segment of new business for NW Natural."